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The Riskiest Thing You Can Do Right Now

Is to play it safe, careful and conservative.

Despite saying that, I don’t mean that you should be taking big risks.

It isn’t about avoiding or eliminating risk, it’s about reducing and managing risk.

Thinking big and risking big are not the same thing.

The startup guys down the street in the garage or in that too small retail space aren’t playing it safe and you can be sure they’re thinking big… and…

They’re gunning for YOU.

Think big. Swing hard. Manage risks. Reach.

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Are you overlooking sales opportunities?


As I’ve mentioned here before, I write a business column for the Flathead Beacon, an online newspaper here in Northwest Montana.

When I have the time and inclination, I also cover sports and other stories about my community (Columbia Falls, Montana) that interest me.

So I take a photo of Rehberg and Montana Chamber of Commerce President / CEO Webb Brown (on the left in the photo above) at a Kalispell “listening session” a month or so ago and insert it into my brief article covering Rehberg’s session.

The next day, a communications specialist at the Montana Chamber of Commerce finds my Beacon article about Rehberg’s session and asks if they can use the photo (which includes their president/CEO)  in their monthly magazine / newsletter.

I was a bit surprised they wanted to use the photo since the microphone is obscuring some of Mr. Brown’s face, but it is what it is. I think they were simply glad to have his photo with Rep. Rehberg.

Good news, bad news

I say sure, they can use the photo in their publication if they include a photo credit that points to the blog and they agree. Good news for me, as state chamber members will be a very nicely targeted audience for Business is Personal.

So my mail arrives and what do you know, the photo not only appears in this month’s Montana Chamber of Commerce magazine called “Eye on Business”, but it appears *on the cover*.

Unfortunately, there is a typo in my photo credit’s URL.

It happens. In fact, it happens more often than you would expect, so you have to be prepared to react properly.

Some might flip out at this point, but think about it – I can’t change the magazine.

React strategically

The magazine is already printed and in the mail. Reacting strategically is the only viable solution.

Thankfully, I am fortunate enough that the typo’d website address is available, so I grab it and create a simple one-page website that acts as a landing page for Eye on Business readers who see the photo credit and are curious enough to read more.

But wait, there’s more. No one other than those readers know that site’s address. It’s only in the magazine and I have no good reason to use it elsewhere.

This means that a very high percentage of the people who see this page will do so because they are readers of Eye on Business. In fact, that means I have good reason NOT to use it elsewhere because of this situation.

Result: I can customize the message on the new site to Montana Chamber of Commerce members, making their first experience with me even more personal. That’s exactly what I did.

Yet another opportunity

I must admit that I thought it was a little odd that the contact with the Chamber was not also used as an opportunity to ask me what I know about the Chamber’s work, if I was a member, and if I would like to get an application form etc.

Nor was a brochure or application included in the package I received in the mail with the sample issues.  This was a missed opportunity to ask, much less just tell their story.

Are you missing out on opportunities like that? Keep your eyes open for them. Sales opportunities that are in context tend to be a lot more fruitful than those that are not.

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Hugh’s advice for entrepreneurs

If you strongly prefer a G or PG post, this isn’t going to be your favorite guest post.

Or maybe it will.

Today’s guest post comes from Hugh MacLeod, and in fact, it’s part of his upcoming book (June 2009).

You may know him from his cartoons, which he pens under the name Gaping Void.

What I will tell you is that even if a few four letter words bother you, you’ll be better off reading and discarding them because quite frankly, this is a pretty important read to any entrepreneur or wanna-be entrepreneur.

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Happy Birthday, Barbie!

TM Resort (48)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Picklepud

Anyone in the beauty / spa / cosmetics / girls / women’s products or similar businesses has a nice opportunity to feed off of the likely sizable public relations push surrounding the reveal of the 50th anniversary Barbie’s new face by Mattel.

Yep – she’s getting a facelift (or something like that) for her 50th birthday

Even if you aren’t in one of these businesses, with a little thought there are ways you could siphon off a little free PR from it.

“Take Barbie (and your parents) out to a birthday dinner tonight and get a free dessert” (that was the easy one)

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Eighty percent of success is NOT just showing up

Years back, Woody Allen supposedly said “80% of success in life is just showing up”. 

I wonder how many people truly understood what he meant.

I suspect there are some who assume that simply by falling out of bed in the morning, they are 80% of the way to success.

I don’t think that’s what Woody meant – unless your idea of success is to live to another day and prove to yourself that gravity is still present. 

To get a better idea of what Woody really meant, take his comment and filter it through the lens of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED speech (below) and I think you’ll have a better idea of the real meaning behind the quote.

In 20 minutes, there’s a little bit of rabbit chasing, but the first 5 and the last 5 really make it worthwhile. 

It isn’t just about “showing up”.

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Why Gary Vaynerchuk watches and listens. What about you?

Today’s guest post comes from WineLibraryTV’s Gary Vaynerchuk, the gregarious crown prince of online wine merchants.

Today, Gary talks about what he does with feedback – of all kinds – both the kind he agrees with, and the kind he doesn’t – and why both have their place.

How do you handle public criticism like Gary discussed?

How does your staff handle it?


And finally, do you even know when someone is talking about your business online?

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Thinking outside the box store


Several of my friends are in the artist community, both here in Montana and elsewhere.

Many of them are photographers like you’d suspect, but some paint.

I don’t really look at myself as an artist even though I’ve been a photographer in one form or another since I was a kid.

Recently, one of them told me that she was able to rent mall space for her photography studio due to an innovative program in the St. Louis area.

The economy has put a lot of pressure on malls across the nation. Vacancies are way up, and the situation is no different at this mall.

One mall thought differently

The mall’s management could have sat back and whined about their situation. They could have let the mall traffic dwindle and left those spaces vacant. That might have impacted them legally, depending on their contracts with anchor stores.

But they didn’t. Instead, they came up with an innovative program that helps their cash flow, helps the local art community (and the small business owners – the artists) as well as keeping traffic up in the mall.

You can review a TV station news video about the project here.

Think outside the box store.

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The Parrot Says You Can’t Do That

Close parrot
Creative Commons License photo credit: jsgphoto

Obama made reference to it Tuesday during his Inaugural Address, acknowledging that many say he can’t do all the things he’s got on his agenda.

Maybe so, maybe not.

Admittedly, his obstacles are substantial.

Some might assume they are insurmountable, specifically those 500 or so people in the Capitol building.

The thing is, that’s  just the kind of situation that often makes people succeed well beyond their own expectations, much less the expectations of others who have counted them out.

Ask Joe Namath, Roger Staubach or John Elway about being counted out.

On second thought, do that later. I’m not here to talk to you about those 4 guys – I’m here to talk to you about you.

Got obstacles?

Who’s counted YOU out? Neighbors? Friends? Family? That little parrot on your shoulder?

Your obstacles probably shrink in comparison to the ones faced by Presidents, but they still might be daunting for you.

So what? Act in parallel and make em all wrong.

What exactly do I mean by parallel?

Most people act sequentially. They think “I’ll do this project, then this project, then that project.” We’ve been taught that way, at least most of us. Learning anything different is often something you stumble across. A failed project acted on sequentially is like a losing season.

Most really successful people tend to act in parallel. They often have a dozen or more projects going on at once. If one of them sticks to the wall, fine. If not, those other 11 projects will pick up the slack. A failed project is just one of the many things they’re counting on, rather than an entire losing season, it’s more like an incomplete pass.

Sure, you’re wondering how they get it all done. How do they juggle a dozen projects when one is enough to drive you crazy?

I promise you one thing: it sure doesn’t happen by accident.

How do they get parallel without going postal?

  • They have a mentor. Even *billionaires* have mentors, coaches, confidants or mastermind groups. Don’t imagine for a minute that Bill Gates plays bridge with Warren Buffett just for fun, nor that Buffett does because he can’t find anyone else to play cards with him. Look Tiger Woods can spank any golfer on the planet, yet he still has a coach to help him keep improving. Who do you have?
  • They have systems in place to relieve themselves of tedious crap. I’m talking about the same stuff that bogs down your day, interrupts you during productive stretches (you DO have those, don’t you?) and create piles of minimum wage labor on your desk – work that you end up doing yourself.
  • They’ve surrounded themselves with people as smart or smarter than themselves. Their ego isn’t driving the bus. Quite often, they do this to relieve themselves of time-consuming manual labor – often technical skills like copywriting and web design.

Acknowledging the theme of the day, Abe Lincoln is quoted as saying that if he had 8 hours to cut down a tree, he’d first spend 6 hours sharpening his saw. What sharpens your saw?

Jim Rohn says that “You become the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with.” No, that doesn’t mean you should go stand in a circle of supermodels<g>. Seriously…Who have you surrounded yourself with?

Get Parallel. Show the parrot who’s in charge.

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4 more ways get ideas for new products/services


Part 2 in our series, “What else can you use to generate ideas for new products and services?” hits the streets today. Slide over here if you need to see part 1.

Last time, we talked about listening to feedback from your customers (rather obvious, but if everyone did it, I wouldn’t have to say it), and we talked about ways to learn about new trends / methods / products / services in your niche as well as how to borrow ideas from other niches.

Today, I’d like to give you four ways to come up with even more ideas. It’s especially timely for the CPSIA-impacted businesses who might be losing a revenue stream (such as 12-under kids clothing).

You might think that these are oriented solely toward service businesses, but they really apply to both products and services.

Think about your ideal customer’s day. 

Walk through it in your mind, step by step. If you aren’t sure about their day, do you really know enough about your customer’s business? 

Look back at each step. What can you do to smooth their day, take away the roadblocks and annoyances? How can you turn that into not only a one sale, but a repetitive one? 

Think about how your business can help them improve their efficiency, safety and profitability

For example, if your products/services involve safety risks to the employees who use them, how can you help them reduce or eliminate accidents and injuries? Training? Improved products? Their insurance firm might reduce their premium if they see documented steps to reduce risk. 

Direct marketing expert Dan Kennedy has a saying: “If I wake up at 2 am thinking about you, you’re in trouble.”

What has the customers in your market tossing and turning at night in today’s economy?

Is that different than what costs them sleep in a middle of the road economy? Maybe so, maybe not â?? but that’s the sort of thing you need to consider when coming up with ideas. 

If something is keeping your customers awake at night, it would be in your interest to find out what it is and do something about it. 

What are the top three things that frustrate your customers every single day?

How can you take those things off the table? If you can’t do that for some reason, keep going down the list of frustrations until you can. 

Take at least 5 minutes today (preferably more than that) to mull over at least one of these things. Do a different one tomorrow. Keep a list. DON’T DISCARD ANY IDEA. Prioritize them, perhaps, but don’t discard them. You never know when the seed planted by a “bad” idea grows into something spectacular.

Jim Rohn talks about harvesting in the fall because you planted in the spring and cultivated in the summer. It’s time to start planting, even though there’s snow on the ground (at least up here, anyhow).

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How to provoke a sea change

Seldom do I ask you to read extensive articles about large corporations. Usually, those corporations are the ones giving me blog post seedlings through their often inane behavior. 

Today is no different, but the behavior is.

Our guest post today comes from Wired Magazine, which talks about the impact of Ray Ozzie and his vision on processes and the future of Microsoft.

I’ll warn you right now. It’s a long article, but worth the time. 

There are a ton of takeaways from it, many of which are also advice or suggestions you’ve heard from me or read elsewhere. What’s important is that when influential parts of large companies like Microsoft start to realize the truth in these things, it’s hard not to ask who will be next. 

Perhaps your competition. 

On another level, it’s more provocational. 

Are you asking yourself and your staff tough, might-makeover-the-business questions?

Even if you’re afraid of the answers, you’d better be asking the questions every now and then.